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Precinct Election Return Modelling for Redistricting Analysis

Authors: Lee Hachadoorian*, Temple University, Amanda Kmetz, Temple University, Adam Thompson, Temple University
Topics: Population Geography, Political Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: redistricting,census,election
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Redistricting consultants, legislative staffers, independent redistricting commissions, researchers, and civic organizations need tools to evaluate current and proposed Congressional and legislative districts, as well as hypothetical plans or plan ensembles. This requires being able to determine demographic characteristics and partisan outcomes of hypothetical districts, which in turn requires Census data and election returns for the small geographies used to construct electoral districts. Many states build electoral districts from VTDs (Voting Districts), the United States Census Bureau's generic term for the geographic units used for election administration and vote tabulation, and variously called precincts, wards, districts, divisions, or other names. However, election precincts change frequently, the bureau does not track these changes or release demographic updates during the intercensal period, precinct election return tables often lack a matching identifier that can be used to join to VTDs or state-maintained geospatial files. Furthermore, some states choose not to provide precinct geographies to the bureau for VTD creation (notably, California is stopping its participation as of the upcoming Census). Given these difficulties, projects have emerged (MGGG States, OpenPrecincts, Election Geodata) that are providing updated and cleaned precinct geospatial files with joined election returns. We propose to disregard VTDs entirely, and model election returns by Census tract and block group using readily available county election returns and current demographics provided for tracts and block groups by the ACS. The results will be validated against precinct level results from states with good precinct data.

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